Oakley has chance to add skipper's job to coaching role at Brickfields
Rhys Oakley will captain Plymouth Albion on Sunday when they travel over the Tamar to take on National Two South side Redruth in a pre-season friendly.
Player-forwards coach Oakley, a summer arrival from Premiership side Northampton Saints, will start at No.8, with Sam Matavesi and Herbie Stupple joining him in the back row.
Oakley did not start either match last weekend against Aberavon and Exmouth, although he did come on as a replacement. There is also a first start for fly-half Dan Mugford, who did play the second half against Aberavon and kicked two conversions.
Sunday will be Albion's third pre-season match, following on from last week's 24-15 win over Aberavon and their 55-14 victory against Exmouth. Eoghan Grace and then Sean-Michael Stephen captained Albion in those matches last week, but now Oakley has the chance to stake a claim for the job permanently.
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Shanahan will not name his permanent captain until at least next week. "Everyone I have named as a captain is a candidate," said Oakley. "They are good leaders, good talkers and know the game well.
"I wanted to look in pre-season at different options for captain. I am still probably going to go with a club captain and a match-day one.
"I am pretty set in my mind on that. I think they are two different roles."
All the players Shanahan has picked to captain Albion in pre-season have been forwards. When asked if that would indicate his new skipper would be a forward, Shanahan said: "Nine is obviously a good option as well.
"Cush [Ruairi Cushion] has done a good job over the years here, so that's an option," he added. "For me, as I've said to the players, the ten is going to be the most dominant player in the team. They [the fly-half] will be the most dominant talker, so, to be honest, he is going to make most of the decisions and calls during the game.
"You have your general back there, so then you need a pack leader. That's kind of why I'm looking up front."
Shanahan certainly believes player-coach Oakley has got leadership qualities.
"He has tons of experience," said Shanahan. "He knows the game really well. That's why we got him here as a player-coach.
"It is his first coaching opportunity but he does know the game extremely well. He knows rugby and has played at the top level since he was 18 and played at international level, so I know he is a good leader and a good person for the players to look up to and follow."
Chris Elder continues at full-back after his impressive debut last week against Exmouth. He scored 25 of Albion's 55 points that day.
Plymouth are unable to call on fellow back Jack Arnott and lock Will Carrick-Smith as they are required by Exeter Chiefs to play Bristol tomorrow. Albion are also without Harrison Tovey, Ben Woods, Tom Cowan-Dickie, Declan Cusack, Lloyd Fairbrother and Sean-Michael Stephen due to injuries.
Plymouth were unable to find new opponents for a pre-season friendly tonight.
Albion had been due to play Premiership side Worcester Warriors' development side at Brickfields. But Worcester pulled out of the game on Wednesday afternoon, saying they were unable to field a strong enough side due to injuries.
It left Albion ringing around other National League clubs trying to find an alternative match. However, they were not able to find new opponents.
Head coach James Shanahan said: "We are very disappointed, but it was always going to be a long shot.
"The club was geared up for a game. We'd planned for a Friday night match against a Premiership club. It is truly disappointing.
"Worcester are looking at the idea of coming down with an A side the week after we play Gloucester [on August 30]. Hopefully, that happens and we can get that extra bit of game time."
The Albion team that had been due to play Worcester tonight will now line up against Redruth. Shanahan had intended to name two completely different sides for both matches.
It means a number of players will be left without a match this weekend. "I have spoken to the players," he said. "Some will miss out on game-time and they are disappointed, but they understand."
Plymouth Albion: Elder; Bowen, Howley-Berridge, Nonu, Davies; Mugford, Rowley; Morton, Evans, Shields; Ascroft-Leigh, Beukeboom; Stupple, Matavesi, Oakley (capt). Replacements: McGregor, Rogers, Harrison, Langley, Grace, Coote, Shanahan, Stevens, Warner, Messer.